Inspirations in Colour – Kaffe Fassett

I took mum to a fascinating lecture last night at Huddersfield University, which was being held by Huddersfield Textile Society. It hadn’t been publicised that well, but that was just as well because the hall was packed out with women (some men but mostly women), all a bit giddy to meet the textile artist and legend Kaffe Fassett.

“Look there he is!…. he’s not bad for his age”, and that was just my mum!

Listening to him speak about his passion for colour and pattern was exciting, about his tales of travelling the world to seek new inspiration. His loves of colour and how it shapes every element of his life was clear in how animated he was about images of water stained wallpaper and glass tiles on drain covers.

Kaffe is clearly a man who has forged his own direction in his work and taken others along with him. Making design garment led and not yarn led is something he feels strongly about and he dismisses the rules of the colour wheel which he considers the work of the devil!

For a man who’s work is dripping in gaudy colours and bold designs I was surprised to hear him say he thinks grey is the most amazing of all colours for the way it allows other colours to shine in a way that white only makes them too shocking.

His key mantra was that anything worth doing is worth over doing. As he talked and showed the process of creating a design for fabric and then copying it onto embroidery kits and knitting patterns, and across various colour pallettes, it became clear that Kaffe understood quite quickly for him to be successful required his work to be marketable and to appeal to the greatest possible audience.

It was interesting to hear his response to whether his work is art or craft. He was quite adamant that ‘art’ is not what he creates and that ‘art’ creates the perception of implied genius which then creates a barrier for some people to participate. Whereas ‘craft’ is accessible to all.

When he went on to talk about his new line of perfume he was clearly not as passionate about scent and his only interest was the packaging design, which makes me wonder if moving into perfume isn’t just selling out the reputation of his strong personal brand for something he doesn’t really believe in.

We got to see his lovely quilts at the end, which was basically an opportunity for a room full of women to be mesmerised by colour and eventually dash down to fondle them lovingly. Mum was bursting at the seams for a picture with Kaffe so I obliged, but I was more interested in his gorgeous fabrics.

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